Life’s a Feast: Elderflower custard with Italian meringue

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PREP TIME: 30 mins
COOK TIME: 20 mins
SERVES: 6 people

Elderflower has a delightful, fragrant, refreshing flavour. These plants only grow in the cooler climate of the South Island, and in the ‘South of the South’ we are fortunate to have the flowers blooming for longer, sometimes as early as November through to late January.

You can find these trees throughout the Wakatipu and even up on the Crown Range, where I picked the flowers for this week’s recipe. Pick in the morning, and try to get ones with bright white flower heads with yellow pollen on them, as this imparts a lot of flavour.

Ingredients

Quick elderflower syrup

15 full elderflower heads

500g castor sugar

3 lemons, juiced

500ml water

(Makes approx. 500ml syrup)

For the custard

350ml elderflower syrup

4 tablespoons cream (or a little extra if a paler colour is preferred)

3 large free-range egg yolks and 1 whole egg

4 tablespoons castor sugar

Italian meringue

100g castor sugar

25ml water

2 egg whites

Method

1.For the syrup, pour lemon, water and castor sugar into pot and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1-2 mins, take off the heat and stir in the flowers.

2.Leave for 4-5 hours (the longer the better) to allow elderflower flavour to infuse.

3.Pour through a muslin or fine sieve and funnel into a bottle or jug. Leave in the fridge to last a little longer. Add 1 teaspoon of citric acid and one less lemon if you would like it to last up to six weeks.

4.To make the custard, put 350ml cordial and the cream in a medium saucepan and bring almost to the boil.

5.Whisk the egg yolks and whole egg in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of sugar. Remove cordial mix from heat, then slowly pour egg mix in to the hot cordial and cream mix, stirring continuously. Put pot back on to a low heat.

6.Stir continuously with a wooden spoon for about 10 mins until it has thickened.

7.Pour the custard into a bowl then place the base of this bowl in a larger bowl of cold water to cool it quickly and stop it cooking further. Set aside.

8.To make the Italian meringue, put the sugar and water into a small pot and put on to a medium heat. Bring to the boil, you are meant to bring the mix to 120degC (I didn’t have a thermometer so guesstimated by leaving to boil for a minute).

9.Meanwhile, whisk the whites until just starting to foam then slowly pour in the sugar mix whilst whisking. Once all sugar is in, turn up the whisk, and whisk until whites have formed white foam and the egg mix is back to room temperature. Your meringue us now ready to use.

10.Divide the custard among 6 small ramekins, then top with the Italian meringue. Grill (or use a torch) for 1 minute to get some colour on the meringue and serve.